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Lines and Legacies: The Harry L. George Collection

The Harry L. George collection of approximately 4,000 American Indian items became a cornerstone of the St. Joseph Museum collection in the 1940s.  “Lines and Legacies:  The Harry L. George American Indian Collection” showcases many of the impressive items from this collection.  


The Harry L. George Collection is one of St. Joseph’s greatest treasures.  Experts such as Dr. Peter Welsh, Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Kansas and Jonathon Batkin, Director of the Wheelwright Museum in New Mexico and author of The Native American Curio Trade, have identified this collection as uniquely significant and well-documented. 

Harry George was a textile broker at the turn of the 20th century in St. Joseph, Missouri.  He amassed one of the largest encyclopedic collections of American Indian objects in the Midwest.  This important collection preserves significant items from the 1800s as well as the history of the culture of collecting that took place in the early 1900s.  George corresponded with well-known collectors whose work led to the foundation of museums across the country such as George Heye (National Museum of the American Indian), Herman Schweizer with the Fred Harvey Company (Heard Museum), and Grace Nicholson (Pacific Asia Museum).  “Lines and Legacies” will feature selected objects from the Harry L. George Collection, discuss collecting practices that are the foundation of museums, provide a window to the lives of Native Americans at the turn of the last century, and ponder the legacy of these museum collections today.  

WWI Saint Joseph: Reflections on Community and Conflict

In a war that was meant to end all wars, millions were killed and empires were destroyed.   Like everywhere else in the world, World War I fundamentally altered St. Joseph.  “WWI St. Joseph:  Reflections on Community and Conflict” opened April 6, 2017, at the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the war. The exhibit encourages visitors to explore the lessons learned from World War I. The exhibit focuses on the experience of St. Joseph during the war years, drawing direct parallels to issues that face our community today and commemorating the lives of those who lived through the era. 


The War required sacrifice from all citizens and those who remained at home were not immune. As men left home to fight abroad, their families faced real hardship – frequently the salaries they earned as soldiers were far less than what they earned in civilian life (in order to alleviate this and to encourage enlistment, the Tootle-Lemon Bank in St. Joseph announced that it would cover the wage gap for any of its employees who enlisted).

Learning to make ends meet with fewer resources was a particular challenge for households. As the war continued, rationing measures were implemented. The city official in charge of enforcing the rationing – and convincing citizens that “meatless Tuesday” and “wheatless Thursday” were their duties as members of society – was Harry L. George (most famous as the man who is responsible for the world-class collection of Native American items held by the St. Joseph Museums).


The exhibit brings to light new research on how the war impacted St. Joseph, and apply the lessons learned to our community 100 years later.

3406 Frederick Avenue, St. Joseph, MO, 64506


© 2018 St. Joseph Museums, Inc. 

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